By Rabbi Sholom Dovber Wolpo
Director, HaMatteh L’Hatzolas Ha’Am v’ha’Aretz
R’ Yekusiel Rapp once told me an amazing story that he had with the Gerrer Rebbe, the P’nei Menachem (1926-1996), as follows:
After one of the Admur’s visits to the Rebbe, when he returned to Eretz Yisroel I met him at the airport while I was there as director of “Beit Chabad at Kennedy Airport.” I went over to him, together with other young men who were doing mivtzaim with me, and R’ Elimelech Neiman introduced me as the “rabbi of the airport.”
I said to the Admur, “Perhaps we can hear some vort you heard from the Rebbe.” He said to me, “The Rebbe is very concerned about the situation in Eretz Yisroel. All the critics who claim the Rebbe cannot mix into affairs in Eretz Yisroel since he is in America should know that the Rebbe lives 24 hours a day with Eretz Yisroel.”
With R’ Kuti a”h we saw how he lived and breathed the Rebbe’s war of shleimus ha’aretz with his entire being. It is hard to describe and understand the mesirus nefesh he had in his role as one of the leaders of HaMatteh L’Hatzolas Ha’Am v’ha’Aretz. He never looked out for his own honor. If it was necessary to contact a certain public figure and protest the situation, R’ Kuti would do it. He utilized all his influence and ties in order to promote the words of the Rebbe and to influence whoever needed to be reached.
He would trudge from place to place and collect penny by penny so that what the Rebbe said could be heard loudly in Eretz Yisroel. We are now marking ten years since the Expulsion from Gush Katif. At that time, not a day passed without R’ Kuti calling Eretz Yisroel and making sure that everything was being done so that the catastrophic expulsion would not take place.
When there was a referendum vote among the party members of Likud in Iyar 5764 when they were going to decide the fate of Gush Katif, R’ Kuti raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the great battle that was waged at the time in Eretz Yisroel on all fronts. He set up a well-oiled telemarketing system in New York which contacted tens of thousands of Likud voters and asked them not to blindly follow Sharon and participate in the destruction of settlements and the establishment of a terror state in the heart of Eretz Yisroel. It reached the point that in the prime minister’s office they were furious about the intervention from New York that was designed to torpedo the wishes of the party leaders. Indeed, in that referendum, there was a decisive majority against the expulsion.
Although the referendum did not help and the expulsion was undertaken about a year later, R’ Kuti would always say that the fact that tens of thousands of members of Likud voted against it, prevented a tremendous chilul Hashem.
Along with his tremendous work for shleimus ha’aretz, he worked with great Ahavas Yisroel to bring public figures he met to the Rebbe. He never gave up and always kept his eyes on the goal: what would give nachas to the Nasi Ha’dor.
R’ Kuti was so alive and so active. It is inconceivable that we need to put into writing brief sketches of the character of someone who lived with the Rebbe 24/7 with tremendous love and a ready smile and Ahavas Yisroel for all. But as the Rebbe said after the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, “and the living shall take it to heart,” we all need to learn a lot from R’ Kuti in so many areas, in Ahavas Yisroel, eternal hiskashrus to the Rebbe, and being mekarev people with a smile and ways of pleasantness.
His passing on 12 Tammuz, the Chag Ha’Geula, symbolizes his very being – mesirus nefesh – and as the Rebbe explains that mesirus nefesh is not only under communist rule but in every situation, even in free countries, he is moser nefesh and his ratzon to sanctify G-d’s name. That was R’ Kuti and that is how we forever remember him.
We cannot be consoled over this enormous tragedy to a wonderful family and to the family of Chassidim, but we do need to perpetuate his legacy. There is no doubt that up above he will demand the Geula and the hisgalus of the Rebbe. May we merit to see him with kindness and mercy with the true and complete Geula and everlasting joy upon their heads.
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